Pro Bowl: Shockey, Strahan set, Barber robbed

Sure two out of three ain't bad. But in the case of New York's NFC Pro Bowl representatives, it's not only bad, but downright ridiculous. Rookie sensation Jeremy Shockey and sack-master Michael Strahan were both voted into the Hawaiian classic, and deservedly so. But missing from the trifecta was Tiki Barber, who was named the NFC's first alternate at RB – despite leading the entire conference in yards from scrimmage. Let's take a closer look at all three of NY's Pro Bowl-deserving players.

Michael Strahan

It is the fifth time in six seasons that Strahan has been elected to the Pro Bowl. With five Pro Bowl selections, Strahan ties Andy Robustelli for the most ever by a Giants defensive lineman. Robustelli played in five Pro Bowls from 1956-62.

Lawrence Taylor holds the Giants record with 10 Pro Bowl appearances. Linebacker Harry Carson and offensive tackle Rosie Brown each went nine times.

"Not bad, I don't want to complain, because you never know when you're not going to get (selected)," Strahan said. "I'm happy about it. I just never assumed that I was going to make it. Even last year, I was like ‘Man, I hope I can make the Pro Bowl.' I never assume that I'm going to make it. But when I do I appreciate it, and when I go I enjoy it."

"He's deserving; honestly he should have made it the one year he missed," Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin said of the 2000 season. "He's such a professional. He cares about himself; he cares about the team. He works at his profession. Other players don't work as hard as he does. He never misses reps – ever. Even when he's hurt he tries to get in there.

"He's always deserving to be in the Pro Bowl."

Strahan leads the Giants with 11.0 sacks, more than twice as many as runner-up Kenny Holmes (5.0). It is the fourth time in his career he has reached double digits in sacks. Strahan has boosted his career total to 95.5 sacks.

He also has 65 total tackles (50 solos), a team-high three forced fumbles, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery. Strahan has played every game for the seventh consecutive season and has now played in 111 straight games, including 110 starts.

"He's had an outstanding season," Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn said. "He hasn't tapered down from last year at all. He doesn't have the sack numbers he had last year, but as far as him contributing and doing the things we want him to do, he's still doing it. He makes other teams run away from him. Everybody respects his abilities. His numbers are still up there with the top guys."

Both Marcin and Lynn added that Strahan's numbers were hurt by the season-ending injury suffered by DT Keith Hamilton.

 

Jeremy Shockey

Shockey is the first Giants rookie to be selected to the Pro Bowl since running back/returner David Meggett in 1989. He is the first Giants tight end to go to Hawaii since Mark Bavaro was chosen for the second of his two appearances in 1987. He also became the first rookie TE to make the Pro Bowl since Keith Jackson in 1988.

Shockey and Bavaro are the only Giants tight ends to be elected to the Pro Bowl since it was first played following the 1950 season.

"It's cool but it's more than just me," New York's first-round pick said. "A lot of things go into this thing. I wouldn't even be a candidate if I didn't have the coaches I have, a great quarterback like Kerry (Collins), great O-linemen, great running backs. I have a great guy to look toward and direct me in Dan Campbell. He has a lot to do with it. There are a lot of things that go into it. It's not something I just did on my own. Coach (Jim) Fassel and Coach (Mike) Pope and Coach (Sean) Payton have spent a lot of time with me. They get it as much as I do."

Strahan said, "I'm glad Jeremy made it, because he more than deserves it. I thought he had a phenomenal year."

Shockey leads all NFL tight ends and all NFL rookies – and is third on the Giants – with 57 receptions for 680 yards and a touchdown. He has easily set a new record for receptions by a Giants rookie; Bobby Johnson held the mark with 48 catches in 1984.

"I really didn't set individual goals," Shockey said. "I knew I wanted to do well and I wanted to fit in the system and get along with the players and win football games. It wasn't something that if I didn't make (the Pro Bowl) I'd be disappointed. It's a great honor. I realize not a lot of young guys get it."

"He's a good player," Pope said. "He has a lot of skill, a lot of energy, a lot of
natural ability."

 

Tiki Barber

Barber was as deserving as his two mates.

"He's a guy you can count on week-in and week-out," QB Kerry Collins said. "He's very deserving. What amazes me still is how hard he runs."

Barber narrowly missed making the team and is the first alternate running back for the NFC squad.

"I think Tiki should be on it, and he'll probably end up playing in it
anyhow," Head Coach Jim Fassel said. "But he's the first alternate there. I'm happy for
that."

Barber will make the trip if one of the three backs voted in, Green Bay's Ahman Green, St. Louis' Marshall Faulk or New Orleans' Deuce McAllister, doesn't play.

But considering Barber is having a career-best season and leads the entire conference in yards from scrimmage, it's absurd that he'd even have to wait for one of those three players to bow out.

He leads the NFC with 1,643 yards from scrimmage (1,124 rushing and 519 receiving) and 75 first downs. Barber has scored a career-high nine rushing touchdowns.

His 1,124 rushing yards put him third in the conference and are the most by a Giant
since Rodney Hampton rushed for 1,182 yards in 1995. His 254 carries are the
most by a Giants back since Hampton had 254 rushing attempts in 1996. Barber needs 76 yards to join Joe Morris as the only Giants to rush for 1,200 yards in a season.

Barber had more rushing yards than both Green (1,057) and Faulk (897). He also topped both in receiving yards and rushing TDs. Yet he wasn't about to complain.

"I have no need to be disappointed," Barber said. "It's an honor to be mentioned with the likes of some of these guys. It's obviously a great honor to make it to the Pro Bowl, and maybe one day I'll make it. But that is not the ultimate measure of my worth as a football player. I know that, my teammates know that and this organization knows that."

Barber, of course, took the high road. It's just a shame that he had to.


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